Rick Wake­man

The key­board whizz on his solo and ARW al­bums, Yes, cov­er­ing Bo Rhap… and the state of his bow­els.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Fraser Lewry Por­trait: Kevin Nixon

The key­board whizz on his solo and ARW al­bums, Yes, cov­er­ing Bo­hemian Rhap­sody… and the state of his bow­els.

Rick Wake­man is a very busy man. In July he jet­ted off to South Amer­ica for shows in San­ti­ago and Buenos Aires, a full orches­tra in tow. He’s just re­leased his al­bum Pi­ano Odyssey, featuring re­work­ings of ma­te­rial from his solo ca­reer along with Yes songs and cov­ers of songs by The Bea­tles, David Bowie and Queen. In Septem­ber there’s a live al­bum from Yes featuring ARW and avail­able in a va­ri­ety of for­mats. And then he starts a tour of his own, travers­ing the na­tion to play tracks from the solo record.

Mean­while, he’s con­tin­u­ing his sec­ond ca­reer as a some­what off­beat Twit­ter celebrity, de­light­ing the in­ter­net with de­tails of his in­testi­nal move­ments and shar­ing up­dates about his cats,

Ge­orge and Harry.

Clas­sic Rock caught up with the mae­stro as he packed for yet an­other flight.

Why did you de­cide to re­lease a se­quel to Pi­ano Por­traits? In­vari­ably, when some­one does an­other al­bum like this, it never works. And some­times fol­low-up ver­sions di­min­ish the first. It’s tricky, but I did en­joy do­ing the first one, and I looked at some of the pieces I hadn’t done be­cause they didn’t stand up enough on the pi­ano. It all started with Bo­hemian Rhap­sody.

You got Brian May in­volved.

I know Brian hasn’t been over­whelmed by some of the ver­sions other peo­ple have done – that’s putting it mildly! I de­cided I needed a re­ally nice string sec­tion, and a choir. And it worked bet­ter than I ever could have dreamed. But I was wor­ried – to put it bluntly – be­cause I know what it means to Queen and to Queen fans. But Brian loved it, and said Fred­die would have adored it, and his bless­ing meant a lot to me. I’d turned the big gui­tar sec­tion into a Vi­en­nese waltz, he added a half-clas­si­cal, half-fla­menco acous­tic gui­tar sec­tion, and it has to be the cameo per­for­mance of my ca­reer. It’s fan­tas­tic!

Why did Yes featuring ARW de­cide to re­lease a live al­bum? With cam­era phones, ev­ery­thing is filmed. There’s so much crap on YouTube – the sound’s bad, it looks bad. So we thought it was important just to make a record of what we were do­ing, some­thing done with great sound and good vi­su­als. It’s a record of part of the short his­tory of ARW.

How’s the new ARW mu­sic go­ing?

Slowly. There’s a six-thou­sand-mile gap be­tween me and Trevor [Rabin] and Jon [An­der­son], and a thou­sand miles be­tween Trevor and Jon, so we record bits and pieces and send them back­wards and for­wards. I don’t think there’s a cry for whole new al­bums any more, but if we could do a box set that mixes old stuff with new stuff and un­re­leased ma­te­rial and in­ter­views, on DVD, that would be a good way to go. When you get to our age, what you’re re­ally look­ing at do­ing is mak­ing a state­ment about how you’ve got to where you are.

What about the Steven Wil­son-mixed box set of Yes al­bums? These are things that are done by the record com­pany, and cer­tainly with­out con­sul­ta­tion. They’re fine, and Wil­son is a bright boy, but the record com­pany don’t even send you a copy. They ba­si­cally say go out and buy it if you want it.

You played at the Whisky a Go Go in Los An­ge­les with ARW to cel­e­brate fifty years since Yes played there.

We thought it’d be fun to charge the same price as we did when we first played: two dol­lars, no ad­vance sales, just queue up to get in. There’s hardly any room, but it’s important to have fun. It’s nice to get rid of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and cause a bit of chaos.

Is it odd to find your­self in a sit­u­a­tion where you’ve got two dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Yes cel­e­brat­ing the same an­niver­sary in dif­fer­ent ways?

I think it’s ridicu­lous. I’ve got no qualms about Steve [Howe] and his band. They do what­ever Steve wants, and that’s fine. But I don’t look at what they’re do­ing be­cause – in the nicest sense – it’s of no in­ter­est to me what­so­ever. I think the whole sit­u­a­tion is ab­so­lutely pre­pos­ter­ous. I’ve al­ways said all along that I didn’t want to use the name. I felt very strongly that as ARW we were cre­at­ing a brand that was Yes mu­sic but we were mov­ing along to ARW mu­sic.

Is there a sense that, like clas­si­cal mu­sic, the important thing is that Yes’s mu­sic is be­ing per­formed, and not nec­es­sar­ily who’s per­form­ing it?

[Long pause] That’s an in­ter­est­ing one. Per­haps when you get to our age we’re all trib­ute bands. Ba­si­cally, I think the important thing is that who­ever the band is, they should be per­form­ing the mu­sic in the high­est pos­si­ble man­ner, to rep­re­sent what the mu­sic and the band orig­i­nally stood for, and I think we’re do­ing that.

For our read­ers who don’t fol­low you on Twit­ter, how are your bow­els at the mo­ment?

Fan­tas­tic! I have a great love of green veg­eta­bles and mak­ing veg­etable soups, and they do have the ad­van­tage of go­ing through you like a Fer­rari. Twit­ter is hi­lar­i­ous, and very oc­ca­sion­ally I write se­ri­ous things, and I like to think they’re no­ticed be­cause the rest of it is pure and ut­ter stu­pid­ity.

In early 2017 you told Clas­sic Rock you thought Don­ald Trump would make a de­cent pres­i­dent if he sur­rounded him­self with the right peo­ple. How do you feel eigh­teen months later?

He’s di­vided opin­ions like there’s no to­mor­row, but he’s gone out and done things that no one thought was hu­manly pos­si­ble.

One minute he’s say­ing dread­ful things about the North Korean leader, the next they’re arm-in-arm, and that’s some­thing pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents and world lead­ers have failed to do. His meth­ods might be very un­pres­i­den­tial, but you have to say that in some ways he’s get­ting re­sults. It’s hi­lar­i­ous! I’d love to meet him.

Pi­ano Odyssey is out now via Sony Clas­si­cal. Live At The Apollo is re­leased on Septem­ber 7 via Uni­ver­sal. Rick Wake­man tours the U K from late Septem­ber.

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